Your vision for your career and your company should start with an articulation of the value you provide.
Does your vision articulate value? It ought to.
Often, in the middle of coaching discussion with young professionals, I asked a basic question:
“What do you want to accomplish?”
The responses I receive to that question are often telling. In some cases, I get interesting, highly functional visions of the next step in a career:
“I want to become a trusted finance leader.”
“I want to become the best project leader in the company.”
“I want to be an expert on M&A processes.”
These are visions that imply a strong value orientation. They imply delivery of value on the way to accomplishing the vision. One cannot become a trusted finance leader without developing the skills necessary to, in fact, be a trusted finance leader.
Sometimes, though, the answer is more problematic:
“I want to get promoted.”
“I want to run a business.”
“I want to be a senior executive.”
These are visions that imply a strong status orientation. They create ends that are status driven. One can “get promoted” under the wrong circumstances. One can “be a senior executive” without developing the skills and capabilities necessary for the task.
Having witnessed multiple highly corrosive senior executives who were placed via the machinations of their own ambitions rather than the value they provide, I can tell you that fulfilling someone’s vision of position and status is exceptionally dangerous if that vision is not accompanied by a vision for value.
And that’s the point of this post: Vision devoid of value is rubbish.
But, though I’ve articulated the examples above in terms of individuals’ visions for their careers, individuals aren’t even the worst offenders. I know plenty of individuals who are great professionals but who can only articulate vision for their career as “promotion” or “a raise.”
They will be okay (if a little shortsighted).
Where the vision-devoid-of-value issue often comes up–and causes the most damage–is actually in business strategy. We see status goals articulated as vision all the time.
“We will double the size of our company.”
“We will be number one in our market.”
“We will be a great place to work.”
These are all corporate level equivalents of “I want to be a senior executive.” They are status oriented visions. They pass for leadership art in companies the world over.
And, they are entirely insufficient.
Shoot for specificity in the value you will provide. Articulate a vision for that value…and then, go!
Can you articulate a value oriented vision for your career? What about for your organization?
At WGP, our own vision statement could use some of the scrutiny I’ve suggested here. We say our vision is to be the premier strategic advisory firm in the region. What we really mean is to be the premier strategic advisory firm in the region because of the quality of our insights, advice, and people.
There’s a difference.
What do you think? How do you articulate a value-driven vision?